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Consumption under Socialism. Everyday Practices, Memory and Nostalgic Potential

The class is focused on consumption during the communist period, its inherent place in the everyday practices of the communist times and the attitude of rejection and nostalgia that it brings to individuals and groups in nowadays’ societies in Eastern Europe. The class outlines the main trends and consumer practices before 1989, the economy of shortages and the economy of jars, the major institutions and trends in delivering and using goods under socialism. A separate attention in the class is dedicated to the socialist food industry and the socialist cuisine, and on the reflection that it has on the so called gustatory nostalgia about the communist period.

Texts for discussion:

  • Bach, J., Consuming Communism: Material Cultures of Nostalgia in Former East Germany. In: Angé, O. and D. Berliner, eds., Anthropology and Nostalgia. New York, Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2015, 123-138.
  • Humphrey, C. and R. Mandel, The Market in Everyday Life: Ethnographies of Postsocialism. In: Mandel, R. and C. Humphrey, eds., Markets and Moralities. Ethnographies of Postsocialism. Oxford, New York: Berg, 2002, 1-18.
  • Rausing, S., Re-constructing the ‘Normal’: Identity and the Consumption of Western Goods in Estonia. In: Mandel, R. and C. Humphrey, eds., Markets and Moralities. Ethnographies of Postsocialism. Oxford, New York: Berg, 2002, 127-143.

Additional readings:

  • Guentcheva, R., Mobile Objects: CORECOM and the Selling of Western Goods in Socialist Bulgaria. Etudes Balkaniques, XLV, 2009, № 1, 5-28.
  • Guentcheva R., Material Harmony. The Quest for Quality in Socialist Bulgaria 1960s-1980s. In: Neuburger, M. and P. Bren, eds., Communism Unwrapped. Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, 140-163.
  • Krasteva-Blagoeva, E., “You Are a Socialist Child Like Me”: Goods and Identity In Bulgaria. In: Krasteva-Blagoeva, E., ed. Approaching Consumer Culture. Global Flows and Local Contexts. Springer 2018, 75-110.
  • Smolett, E., The economy of jars: kindred relationships in Bulgaria – An Exploration. Ethnologia Europea (Journal of European Anthropology) 19 (2), 1989, 125-140.
  • Шкодрова, А., Соцгурме. Куриозната история на кухнята на НРБ. Пловдив, 2014. [Shkodrova, A., Socialist Gourmet – the Curious History of the Cuisine of National Republic of Bulgaria]. Plovdiv, 2014].